Every Thursday, NHL.com will look ahead to the 2019 NHL Draft with an in-depth profile on one of its top prospects.
Bowen Byram has a good chance at becoming the first defenseman selected in the 2019 NHL Draft at Rogers Arena in Vancouver on June 21.
The 6-foot, 193-pound left-hand shot has spent the past three seasons manning the blue line for Vancouver of the Western Hockey League, so he has a good idea the amount of excitement and anticipation there is when it comes to draft day.
"It's funny because I was drafted by Vancouver (No. 3 in the 2016 WHL bantam draft) and now I'll be at Rogers Arena for the NHL draft," Byram said. "I'll have lots of family and friends there from around the area and it'll be an exciting time.
"When I first got to Vancouver, they weren't succeeding so I wanted to come in and help the rebuild and winning again. I feel like we've done a good job with that, and we have a good chance at winning this season so I'm lucky to be here."
Prior to selecting Byram, the first defenseman chosen in the 2016 WHL draft, Vancouver hadn't qualified for the WHL playoffs in three of four seasons. This season Vancouver (48-15-5) finished first in the B.C. Division with 101 points and qualified for the WHL playoffs in consecutive seasons with Byram as its catalyst.
Byram, No. 4 in NHL Central Scouting's midterm rankings of North American skaters, was third among WHL defenseman in points (71) and first in goals (26) and game-winning goals (nine) in 67 regular-season games. He set a Vancouver Giants record for most goals by a defenseman in the regular season, a mark previously held by Kevin Connauton (Arizona Coyotes), who had 24 goals in 69 games in 2009-10.
"You can't let it get to your head, but it's never a bad thing (to set a record)," Byram said. "I think everybody likes to succeed. In the end, it doesn't really matter how many points you put on the board, though. It's about the team winning the game so I'm happy as long as the team keeps winning."
Byram also set a WHL record with six overtime goals, topping the prior mark of five by forward Eric Fehr (Minnesota Wild) of Brandon in 2004-05.
Byram credits Giants coach Michael Dyck for being a big influence, not only in Vancouver but with the Lethbridge Golden Hawks bantam AAA team in 2015-16. Dyck said Byram has become a more polished player since he last coached him in Lethbridge.
"He's a threat in all three zones," Dyck said. "He's able to make plays under pressure and make plays in traffic in his own zone and in the neutral zone. In the offensive end, he's able to create offense so he can create plays blue line-to-goal line whether he has the puck or not."
Dyck knew this was one area of Byram's game that needed to change if he was going to average almost 30 minutes a night for the Giants as a 17-year-old.
"He's done a really good job buying into a philosophy that less is more," Dyck said. "We don't necessarily need him to be the play, but just make plays. We made some additions to the back end and he still plays a ton, but we've added depth and that's helped take pressure off Bo in certain situations."
The Giants acquired defensemen Seth Barfaro and Dallas Hines, as well as center Jadon Joseph, prior to the WHL trade deadline on Jan. 10. Vancouver opens a best-of-7 first round playoff series against Seattle on Friday.
"Bo is an aggressive and energetic player, he's a competitive kid, and sometimes he tends to do too much," Dyck said. "When you try to do too much at a higher level, you sometimes overextend yourself and put yourself in a pretty vulnerable situation."
Byram was asked what he feels it takes to becoming an NHL defenseman.
"I think you got to be able to skate and think the game and move the puck," he said. "I also think you must have good off-ice habits because that's kind of developed into a big part of the game with how you train in the offseason. How you treat your body and how you eat are just as important as any on-ice exercise."
Dyck expects there to be a loud cheering section for Byram at Rogers Arena on draft day. Evander Kane (San Jose Sharks) holds the distinction of being the highest-drafted player from the Giants to play in the NHL (No. 4 by the Atlanta Thrashers in 2009).
"If the Vancouver Canucks took him, you might hear an even bigger roar but he's obviously a very well- known player here in Vancouver," Dyck said. "He may be the highest pick we've ever had in this organization so there will be a lot of attention and a lot of support."